Author: Heather Maggs

Hollaback!

One of my favorite organizations is at a pivotal moment in its growth today and I wanted to share something about them here. The group is called Hollaback and it has chapters all over the country.

I first became a fan at the age of 19 when on my first ever trip to NYC I was verbally harassed on the street outside Grand Central Station by a couple of guys. They whistled at me to get my attention and then one of them told me that he would “sure like to tap that.” As they started walking towards me, I froze. Being young and out of my element, I had no idea what to do. A woman in her late twenties walked up beside me and snapped a picture of the two men with her camera before telling them to back off in a loud clear voice. They called her a bitch and walked away.

I turned to thank her. She handed me a piece of paper with a web address on it and said, “no problem, check out the site.” What I found was an online community where women posted photos of street harassers and spoke out about their feelings after being catcalled. I checked the site a week later and sure enough, there was the photo of the two men who had harrassed me. The site has since grown into a nationwide movement.

Today, Hollaback is on the verge of getting an iPhone app, but they need money to get it. They have 1 day and about $1700 left to raise. If you are able, consider donating to them here: www.ihollaback.org

And if you want to learn more, check out this link for an interview with the amazing Miss DC, Jen Corey. You can watch a video of her on NBC discussing her experiences with street harassment.

Bystander Intervention in Maine!

“It was really scary, but I’m glad we got involved”  Check out this link for an awesome story about five women who subdued an attacker in Maine.  You go girls!

Way to Go, California!

Super excited to see California taking some strong steps to make self-defense education a required part of a public school education!  Check out this link!

Exciting Events in NC

March is already starting out to be an exciting month for me.  I’ll be doing Fight Back Productions gigs in Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Florida.  Crazy!

But in between the out of town excursions, there are some exciting things going on right here in town that I want to share with you.  I hope that if you are in NC you’ll come and join me!

First up, at 3pm on Saturday, March 13th, I’ll be presenting a free Girls Fight Back! seminar at Advanced World Martial Arts Systems in Kernersville.  The program is appropriate for ages 13 and up and will last about 90 minutes with plenty of time after to answer any questions you may have.  I’ll be talking about ways to avoid becoming the target of a violent crime by trusting your intuition and behaving like a bad victim and I’ll finish up with some simple fight techniques that you can use if you ever find yourself confronted by an attacker.  The program is presented with tons of humor and you’ll leave feeling like a stronger, more empowered person.  Pete Andrews of AWMAS has graciously agreed to let me use his studio for free and while there is no charge for the seminar itself, we will be collecting donations for Heroes Serving Humanity.  For more information about the workshop check out: http://www.awmas1.com/page_latestnews.htm. And call 336-992-5223 to sign-up.  Call ASAP – space is limited.

Also in the realm of violence prevention, from March 12th thru March 27th; V-Day Greensboro will be presenting staged readings of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer at Open Space Café Theatre in Greensboro, NC.  These very adult oriented productions explore how our society affects the way women view their bodies and the way that violence impacts the lives of women around the globe.  I’ll be performing in A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer, so come check it out and say hi to me afterwards! The Vagina Monologues performs March 11, 13, and 26 at 8pm. A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, A Prayer performs March 12, 25, and 27 at 8pm.  Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at the door or make reservations by calling (336) 687-1319.  All proceeds go to The Sherri Denese Jackson Foundation in Greensboro NC.

If you aren’t in North Carolina, you can find out more about the V-day campaign and look for events in your area by checking out www.vday.org.  And be sure to check out our FBP calendar at www.fightbackproductions.com/calendar to when we’ll be in your neck of the woods!

WAM!

I’m so jazzed after presenting Girls Fight Back! at Georgia Tech tonight that I simply had to come share this fierce picture right away!

Thanks to all the ladies who came out and especially to Lorin who put this amazing event together.  I love my WAM swag!  BTW – WAM stands for Women’s Awareness Month and I was thrilled to be the kick-off event for what promises to be an incredible month of programming at GA Tech.  If you are in the Atlanta area, check out their website at cyberbuzz.gatech.edu/wam for info on their upcoming events!

Exciting Events in NC

March is already starting out to be an exciting month for me.  I’ll be doing Fight Back Productions gigs in Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Florida.  Crazy!

But in between the out of town excursions, there are some exciting things going on right here in town that I want to share with you.  I hope that if you are in NC you’ll come and join me!

First up, at 3pm on Saturday, March 13th, I’ll be presenting a free Girls Fight Back! seminar at Advanced World Martial Arts Systems in Kernersville.  The program is appropriate for ages 13 and up and will last about 90 minutes with plenty of time after to answer any questions you may have.  I’ll be talking about ways to avoid becoming the target of a violent crime by trusting your intuition and behaving like a bad victim and I’ll finish up with some simple fight techniques that you can use if you ever find yourself confronted by an attacker.  The program is presented with tons of humor and you’ll leave feeling like a stronger, more empowered person.  Pete Andrews of AWMAS has graciously agreed to let me use his studio for free and while there is no charge for the seminar itself, we will be collecting donations for Heroes Serving Humanity.  For more information about the workshop check out: http://www.awmas1.com/page_latestnews.htm. And call 336-992-5223 to sign-up.  Call ASAP – space is limited.

Also in the realm of violence prevention, from March 12th thru March 27th; V-Day Greensboro will be presenting staged readings of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer at Open Space Café Theatre in Greensboro, NC.  These very adult oriented productions explore how our society affects the way women view their bodies and the way that violence impacts the lives of women around the globe.  I’ll be performing in A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer, so come check it out and say hi to me afterwards! The Vagina Monologues performs March 11, 13, and 26 at 8pm. A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, A Prayer performs March 12, 25, and 27 at 8pm.  Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at the door or make reservations by calling (336) 687-1319.  All proceeds go to The Sherri Denese Jackson Foundation in Greensboro NC.

If you aren’t in North Carolina, you can find out more about the V-day campaign and look for events in your area by checking out www.vday.org.  And be sure to check out our FBP calendar at www.fightbackproductions.com/calendar to when we’ll be in your neck of the woods!

LPS takes Manhattan!

I had the amazing opportunity to travel to NYC this past week and present Women Fight Back to a group of fabulous ladies from Lender Processing Systems.  It was a pretty early morning gig, but man, they came in ready to go!  I could feel the energy as soon as we started and it didn’t let up.  I mean, just look at this fierceness! 

I can tell you right now that Lender Processing Services is a cool company because not only did they host this training, but they also purchased pepper foam for all of the attendees!  Pretty sweet, huh?

Lots of thanks go to Sarah at LPS for putting this event together and for being my scary bad guy.  I can honestly say I’ve never had an SBG that was quite so sweet.

RAD Self-defense Systems Review

HPIM3154Last night was my last official RAD class at my alma mater and I thought I would share my experience with those of you who might be looking for a self-defense class to take.  Just remember that these are only my thoughts and programs will vary at different locations.  So, check out the RAD Systems website to find a class near you so that you can form your own opinion.

First, RAD is an incredibly popular program with a presence on virtually every college campus in the US and Canada.  It is usually free or very low cost to attend and once you graduate, you are given a certificate to return to any class throughout the US or Canada without any additional charge.  They also require that all men involved be law enforcement officers or submit to a thorough background screening.

Because RAD is typically offered on college campuses, you can expect to have a lot of young, enthusiastic gals in your class and the one I attended was no exception.  Over four short training sessions, we bonded and cheer each other on through various scenarios.  The instructors were friendly and not the least bit intimidating or egotistical.

While I general found the class to be simple and easy to follow, I wasn’t totally impressed with the amount of practice time we were given or the time spent on teaching ground defense.  There were also some scenarios that were “off-limits” during the full-contact portion of the final night.  I found that frustrating since several of us wanted to practice ground techniques.

All-in-all I would list the pro and cons as follows:

Pros –

  • Easy to find classes and large network of instructors all over the US and Canada
  • Free or low cost to attend with the option to return to any class, any time, any where without additional charge
  • Very simple techniques that are similar to other systems

Cons-

  • Not a lot of practice time esp on ground defense
  • Not a lot of time with padded attackers to practice various scenarios
  • Some scenarios were “off limits” and could not be practiced with the padded attackers.

Personally, I really enjoyed learning this new system.  It is very similar to other approaches and I will definitely be checking out other RAD programs in my area.  If you have taken a RAD class at your college or in your community, please feel free to leave a comment!  Was my experience similar to yours or did you have a totally different opinion about the classes you took?HPIM3155

If you are in the Denver area, be sure to sign-up for the new Girls Fight Back workshop being held at Spiral Yoga and Wellness tomorrow.  For more details, check out Erin’s post below!

A GFB Week in Review

One week ago, I was in sunny Orlando preparing to present Women Fight Back to a group of awesome gals at Siemens Energy. No surprise that they were full of energy and spunk. I loved the brief time I got to spend there and they seemed to love kicking butt! One of the comments I received on our feedback forms read, “OMG!!! This was the most amazing class – I Loved Her!! Thank You” and another said it was the best presentation they had ever had! So I felt pretty good. 🙂

I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with incredible college peer educators at the Bacchus and GAMMA National Peer Education Conference. Bacchus and GAMMA is a non-profit which trains college students to educate their fellow students about various health issues from drugs and alcohol to STIs and HIV to good nutrition and overall wellness. It is a personal favorite of mine because I was a peer educator at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro every single semester and I attended four national conferences during my years there. It was at the B &G conference that I first saw Girls Fight Back! and that I first met Erin Weed. I met some really cool people from all over the country and saw some great programs. The theme this year was Super Heroes of Peer Education and although I had to leave before the themed costume contest on Saturday night, I am sure there were some pretty amazing costumes just because us peer educators are dedicated like that!

And that, my friends, wrapped up my portion of the fall tour! I was grateful to get back home and start resting up for our January training academy and, of course, our upcoming Spring tour. I didn’t think about all the things I had put off doing at home while I was jet-setting across the country teaching people to be their own best protectors. Not only are there piles of laundry and tons of holiday preparations to be done, but I also remembered that I signed up for a RAD class at my alma mater! Tuesday was my first class and it covered some basics about safety and awareness. We learned some of the primary moves (ready position, palm strikes, etc.), but the real meat of the program started last night when we learned tons of basic strikes and started practicing on the punching pads. Next Tuesday, we’ll be working on ground defense and next Thursday we’ll be doing simulations. I’m excited to learn about another system of self-defense and you can look out for a full review after our last class next week.

Wednesday was the highlight of my week because I got to have coffee with a dear friend of the GFB family, Andrea Cooper. She was speaking at Wake Forest University and I had the opportunity to chat with her and see her speak. Andrea travels the country telling the story of her beautiful daughter Kristin. Early in her sophomore year of college, Kristin was raped by a friend…someone she knew and trusted and on New Year’s Eve of that same year, Kristin killed herself in her parent’s home while they were out at a holiday party. Even typing that statement makes me tear up. The pain that Andrea has experienced following her daughter’s death is something I can hardly imagine and I admire her more that I can possibly express. Having just a simple cup of coffee with her was such a blessing and to see her presentation Wednesday night was so touching. I could tell from the way that students surrounded her following her talk that they were touched as well. Andrea also gave a blatant plug to GFB! She pulled me up out of the audience, introduced me, and said that they simply must book me at their school. Luckily, I had brought along some GFB materials because several groups from the school approached me afterwards for info! One good favor deserves another, so if you are interested in learning more about bringing Andrea Cooper to your school, check out www.kristinsstory.com. If your school has an Alpha Chi Omega chapter, partner with them! Kristin was an Alpha Chi and the national AChiO chapter offers grants to bring Andrea to your campus! Her program is a great way to break the ice about rape, depression, and suicide – issues that students on your campus unfortunately deal with every single day.

I heard that yesterday’s Dr. Phil had safety and self-defense tips for kids! Did anyone watch? What did you think?

The Bystander Effect – As many as 20 people witness gang rape & fail to report

A dear friend sent me a link to this very sad story.  Basically, a 15 year old girl was gang raped outside a school dance for over two hours while as many as 20 people watched or participated in the attack.  No one called 9-1-1 or reported the crime.  My friend sent me the link with a note attached that read, “why isn’t self-defense mandatory in high schools?”  I don’t have an answer.  I don’t know.

I also don’t know why so many kids stood by and allowed this to happen.  There are already dozen of articles out there hypothesizing about what happened here.  Was it a bystander effect (which is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a large group of people witness a crime and diffuse responsiblity among the group)?  Did they fear retaliation from the group?  Have they been desensitized by the violent and sexual media that surround us? I could go on and on listing the theories that abound on this topic.

I recently took a CPR re-certification class.  We had already learned half of the skills that the class teaches when one young girl in the back raised her hand and said, “ok, I understand how to do this, but how do I know when to do it?”  It is an excellent question.

We teach our children about 9-1-1 from a young age, but do we tell them when to use it?  Do we have them practice dialing the number (with the phone unplugged, of course) and teach them how to answer basic questions that an emergency dispatcher might ask?  When we get in new situations, we often freeze and witnessing a violent crime is no different.  When will we begin to teach our children the basic skills they need to survive and thrive in this world?  Violence happens.  We can’t ignore it or deny it.  We must take responsiblity for teaching our children these skills.  And we must learn to help each other.  Afterall, if we weren’t put on this planet to help each other out, then what are we here for?

Our thoughts and prayers are with this girl, her family, and her community.

What can I do to make a difference? Part 2

It has been a hectic week or so for this member of the Girls Fight Back crew.  After planning and holding a public rally here in NC for PAVE’s Rape IS Rape initiative, I hopped on a plane and headed to California for a training with Gavin de Becker & Associates.

As I have mentioned before on the blog, Gavin de Becker is the author of what I believe to be the absolute best personal safety books available.  Some of the titles include: The Gift of Fear, Protecting the Gift, and Fear Less.  In addition to being a writer, Mr. de Becker runs one of the leading safety and violence prevention agencies in the world.  He has created an incredible threat assessment tool called MOSAIC (its domestic violence threat assessment version is available for free for DV agencies), provided protection detail for some of the biggest celebrities and political figures in the world and played a role in assessing the lessons learned from some of the biggest violent tragedies our world has ever seen.  I would be willing to bet that the GdB folks have also played a big role in preventing numerous violent tragedies that we never heard about, but would have rocked our lives if no intervention had occurred.

I could type pages and pages about the amazing things I learned and people I met, but I think it boils down to one thing.  After any violent incident occurs, we always hear people say things like “no one could have seen it coming” or “there is nothing we could have done.”  And if there is one thing I learned, it is that nearly every attack or violent occurrence has numerous opportunities for prevention.

After heading home from the training, it felt like I barely had time to do laundry and re-pack before heading off to Chicago to give more Girls Fight Back and Women Fight Back programs.  My first stop was at Morton High School.  The program was at 9:45am and it was three hours away from where I was staying.  Needless to say, I got up at about 4am, got as presentable as possible when you get up at the crack of dawn, and drove through the beautiful Illnois cornfields heading out to the Pumpkin Capital of the World (Morton, IL).

I have always had a secret fear of presenting to high schoolers because well, I am a big dork and I had my doubts that my geeky sense of humor would go over well at a high school.  But, man was I wrong!  Those girls loved the program and I loved them right back.

After the program was over, I was greeted by about 7 girls who asked me questions about groundfighting and what they could do at their school to make it safer.  We weren’t able to really finish our discussion, so I thought I would post some ideas here that go along with the “what can I do to make a difference” theme!  So here are some ideas for things you can do to make your school a safer place.  Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments!

-Start a Students Against Violence Club – Check out Students Against Violence Everywhere or form your own anti-violence club

-Talk to your teachers and administrators about your experiences, your fears, and your worries

– Start a conflict resolution or peer mediation program at your school

-Don’t be afraid to tell adults what is going on.  If you see a weapon or hear someone make threats, tell someone.

-Learn safe routes for getting to and from school and stick to them.  Know good places to seek help along your route just in case.

-Host anti-violence events at your school.  Things like Random Acts of Kindness Day ( give students stickers for each random act of kindness they do and give a prize to the top earners at the end of the day), an anti-violence themed poster contest (get clubs involved and offer a prize like an ice cream sundae party), or a day of silence for victims of violence.  Talk to local businesses about donating prizes for these events and be sure to get your PTA and local agencies involved.

You’d be amazed at what a difference student-led anti violence campaigns can make at your school!  Check back for more ideas and for details about my recent gigs at Lake Forest College and Glen Ellyn Public Library!

What can I do to make a difference?

It has been almost two weeks since I spoke at the beautiful Baylor University campus for the Alpha Delta Pi’s 4th annual Girls Fight Back.  In the two weeks since, I have been struggling to come up with the one primary lesson that I learned from this event.  It was an overwhelmingly wonderful event to be a part of.  A couple hundred fired up sorority girls in a beautiful ballroom.  The hostesses provided delicious treats (Dr Pepper floats!  Seriously, you haven’t lived…stop reading this post, go get one and come back when you are done!) and graciously donated door prizes.  It was the largest crowd I have ever spoken to and after the event, I took picture after picture with girls who were obviously excited about self-defense.baylor

I drove back to my hotel thinking, man, they have got it going on!  How can I help others host events that are equally as successful?  I thought about it and thought about it.  Besides the floats and prizes, what was it that had made this event a hit for four years?  Finally the answer hit me this past weekend at an event that had absolutely nothing to do with Girls Fight Back.

You see, this is my third year walking with a group of friends called Team Supersnack.  We started walking in the AIDSWalk NYC four years ago and have since grown to being a non-profit organization that regularly raises over $50,000 per year for HIV/AIDS research and treatment.  This year, we tackled AIDSWalk DC and finished up the second highest fundraising team overall!  As I was walking and chatting with some longtime friends (Shawn Decker and Gwenn Barringer – awesome speaker friends!), I realized that Team Supersnack is successful in the same way that Baylor’s Girls Fight Back is successful.  They are successful because of the passion of individuals!

See, Girls Fight Back at Baylor isn’t paid for by the school and Team Supersnack doesn’t have some big corporate sponsor handing us a $30,000 check.  In both cases, a small group of committed individuals see a problem (campus violence, HIV) and find small attainable ways to help.  The Alpha Delta Pis at Baylor work their tails off to make this a great event.  They don’t count on an advisor or school official to address the problem, they tackle it themselves.  I began to wonder, what if all of us did this.  When we see a problem instead of sitting back and waiting for someone else to address it, what if we all stood up and put in 110% to work towards a solution.

This weekend, I am doing just that.  Like Jaime, I am saddened and frankly, outraged at the overwhelming Hollywood and media support for convicted sexual predator Roman Polanski and this weekend, I am doing something about it.  For those of you who have somehow missed the story, in 1977 a 43-year-old man took a 13-year-old girl to a friend’s home where he proceeded to get her drunk, drug her, and then rape and sodomize her in various ways.  After this girl gave her testimony in court, the man decided to take a plea bargain instead of being found guilty by a jury of his peers.  He pled guilty to having sexual intercourse with a minor, posted bail, fled the country, and has lived a happy and free life in France ever since.  Now he has been arrested and will hopefully return to the USA for sentencing and his friends are trying to get him off the hook.  Why?  Because he makes movies.  Not because he is innocent (guilt has already been established), but because of what he does for a living.  I personally believe this is wrong and I am coordinating a rally in my hometown of Winston-Salem, NC to stand in solidarity with the victims of sexual violence.  The rally is a part of a national campaign by PAVE called Rape IS Rape. And you are welcome to join us!  If you feel passionately, you can visit the Rape IS Rape website and find a rally near you.  Don’t see one listed?  It isn’t too late to start one!  Contact rapeisrape@gmail.com for an Action Kit or go to www.rapeisrape.com for more info (while you are there, sign our online petition!).

If you are an individual reading this blog and wondering, “what can I do to make a difference?”  Fight Back Productions wants to help you.  Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to post tips about how YOU can combat violence on your campus or in your community.  I promise they will be simple and even fun!  So, come back and check us out and until then, get involved!

Kent State shows some love to Girls Fight Back!

Just saw this awesome article about our recent Girls Fight Back presentation at Kent State.GFB blog

Way to go Michaela!

Way to go TSU Bulldogs!

Well, I’m back in the heart of Texas and having a much more leisurely trip than when I went to San Antonio a few weeks ago.  Yesterday,  I enjoyed some rest and relaxation at my hotel and some delicious tacos at Torchy’s Tacos. ( I highly recommend them!)

But by far the best experience I’ve had thus far was presenting Girls Fight Back at Texas State University – San Marcos! (Famous Alumni include LBJ and George Strait.) It was a beautiful room to present in.  My event coordinator Albert was a dream come true AND he played my scary bad guy!  It was an intimate crowd due to the large quantities of rain pouring outside (but hey, they’ve had drought conditions lately, so they need it!), but when they got fired up, you couldn’t stop them!  Since it was a smaller group, we got to practice some hands-on technique and I even got them rolling on the floor groundfighting.  Awesome!TSU

This morning I discovered with delight that my hotel has a waffle iron that creates waffles shaped like the state of Texas.  Yeehaw!  So I’m going to enjoy another day in the Lonestar State and then head out to rock Baylor University Girls Fight Back style.  Baylor girls are some long time GFB fans.  So much so, that they are rockin’ the GFB logo as their avatars on Facebook.  Sweet!

Can’t wait to hang out with all these awesome chicks tonight and throw back a Dr. Pepper float!

Alabama girl fights back!

When my alarm went off at 3:30 this morning, I jumped out of bed, kissed my sleeping daughter, and headed off to the airport.  As I drove along, I thought…why do I do this? Was this what I really wanted when I got involved in Fight Back Productions? I was exhausted and a little bitter when I finally sat down in the airport to wait for boarding.  So, I checked my email to fill the time and found a google alert for an article with the title Ala. girl escapes from attacker by fighting back.  I was instantly reminded why we at FBP do what we do and why so many people in the self-defense industry push forward despite being confronted by the harsh realities of humanity every day.  We all say if we reach just one, it is worth it.  Well, kudos to this young girl and to everyone who worked to get her the training she needed to be her own best protector!

My flights went great and now I am ready for an afternoon of rest and relaxation before bringing Girls Fight Back to Texas State University – San Marcos tonight!

Remember the Alamo

AlamoI am sitting on my return flight from San Antonio right now after only 3 hours of sleep and wondering what possessed me to take the earliest available flight today.  But, hey I’ll be home before I know it, right?

My time in San Antonio has been brief (less than 24 hours), but awesome!  I have loved the weather (hot and humid – just like home) and actually got to do a little sight seeing!  My hotel room wasn’t ready when I got in, so I cruised on downtown and took in the sights at Riverwalk and the Alamo.

But I wasn’t here to enjoy the attractions!  I was here to deliver a Students Fight Back presentation at the University of Texas – San Antonio and man, those kids were awesome!  As soon as I got there the room flooded with volunteers from the Campus Activities Board, Student Wellness Center, Women’s Resource Center, peer educators, etc. etc.  They were all excited and ready to rock.  We got started pretty late, but hey, college kids are used to late nights!  The presentation was great and very interactive.  Afterwards, I stuck around to take some of the audience through some ground fighting techniques.  And the best part of all?  I didn’t get lost!  Not on the way to UTSA and not going back to the hotel!  For me, that makes a really great gig!

FBP productions will be back in Texas in just a little over a week to deliver the goods at Texas State University – San Marcos and Baylor University.  It isn’t too late to get your school on our rockin’ Fall 2009 tour! Contact us for more info!

Choosing a Preschool

There is an old German proverb that reads: “Who takes the child by the hand, takes the mother by the heart.” From the minute a slimy, closed-eyed, squalling little baby is laid across its mother’s chest, the mother begins to look at the world differently. (Check out FBP founder Erin Weed’s latest blog about natural childbirth and her journey into motherhood.) What used to look like a fun, predictable place now looks like a cesspool of predators, electrical outlets, and sharp-cornered coffee tables.

I have successfully guided my daughter through this dangerous world for almost 17 months now and despite her share of falls (off the bed, down a short flight of stairs, off the couch, etc. etc.) she is today a strong willed and independent toddler.

Today was her first day of preschool.

Of course, that sounds dramatic. Really today was her first day of ever being cared for by someone other than a family member. She is attending two half days a week at a local church preschool which amounts to a whopping 6 hours a week in the care of someone else. Still, it is a big step for us.

When we were looking for a preschool, I thought we were doing everything right. We grilled our friends for recommendations; we toured a few options; we asked questions and finally made a decision. The final decision was really made by Cassie. Like most toddlers, she has separation anxiety. Every place we toured she was clingy and unwilling for us to set her down for even one moment. But this one preschool, she really opened up and dove right in. She played with toys and smiled at teachers. We thought she was making her choice known. So we went with it.

A month after filing out my registration form and signing over that first tuition check, I was reading Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker and realized…maybe my (then) 13 month old wasn’t the best person to rely on to choose a safe preschool. I was reading the chapter about choosing a preschool and feeling so stupid. I had asked questions, but they hadn’t been the real questions on my mind. I had let others convince me what a great place this was, but didn’t even ask if they background checked their employees! What had I done?!

I decided to make an appointment to see the director and ask all the right questions this time. I knew that this place was such a great school that her answers would put me at ease. I was shocked to find out that while the school does background check employees, it doesn’t background check volunteers or follow the Department of Justice Guidelines for the Screening of Persons Working with Children. I tried hard not to let my disappointment show as I received honest, yet somewhat scary answers to my child safety questions. I was beginning to realize that I had a hard decision to make. My child could not attend this school.

As I was about to wrap things up, the director of the preschool shared a particularly candid story with me about a time that she had suspected a parent of abusing their child. Hearing about her quick and decisive action gave me a glimmer of hope. We began to have a simple and honest dialogue about safety. No more questions with pass or fail answers, just a few adults talking about how to make their community safer for children.

In the course of this dialogue, I shared my connection to Fight Back Productions and talked about the book Protecting the Gift. I shared with the director and her assistant director everything that I was learning. She said, “Then maybe you can help us.”

Later that afternoon, we were exchanging emails about fingerprint based background checks and video camera security systems. My suggestions were treated with respect and just recently, the director shared with me that the church had approved the installation of a new security system!

I was amazed by what could happen when just one person asks the tough questions. So today was Cassie’s first day at that same school. I’m confident that as long as I keep speaking up and the administration keeps listening and working with me, we can create an environment where the kids can not only be safe, but can grow and thrive.

For more information about what you can do to be sure your child is safe at school check out this article.

S.P.E.A.R System

This past weekend, I took a Level 1 training course offered by The Realistic Female Self Defense Company in Chapel Hill, NC.  The instructors at RFSDC are certified by Blauer Tactical Systems, Inc. and teach what is commonly called the S.P.E.A.R. System.The S.P.E.A.R System is based off a ton of scientific research conducted by Tony Blauer into the physiological stress responses of human beings.  It focuses primarily on the universal way that humans flinch.A group flinches from a baseball bat

I can’t begin to describe the physiological background of the system because it is very detailed and well researched.  And it is hard to compare the system to others I have been exposed to, so I decided the best way to evaluate the training I received on the S.P.E.A.R. System was with a list of pros and cons.  Please know that these are simply my thoughts and you can form your own opinions by checking out the links above and signing up for a class if you are interesting in learning more.  You can also read this interesting interview I found with Tony Blauer in Black Belt Magazine and look for videos on YouTube.

Pros –

Cons –

  • Seems to require more upper body strength and focus more on upper body techniques
  • Not much focus on verbal de-escalation techniques (how to get out of a fight without fighting)
  • Level 1 and 2 courses are difficult to locate through the primary website

If you are interested in finding a S.P.E.A.R System class near you, my advice would be to search S.P.E.A.R System Self Defense and your homestate on google or a similar search engine.  You can also contact the Realistic Female Self-Defense Company via their website as they travel and may be offering a class near you at some point.

All-in-all I met some great, passionate people and added another tool to my self-defense toolbelt.  Keep checking the Fight Back Productions blog for info about various self-defense systems that we train in.

13 year old fights back!

There is an interesting article in the NY Post about a 13 year old girl who used feigned compliance to get her attacker to relax his grip until she could run away and get help.  What is most interesting to me is the way that this attack has affected her.  I think some times in our society we think “well, this was only an attempted kidnapping or attempted rape, so she didn’t really get hurt.”  Even though this encounter only lasted a few minutes, it has still greatly changed the way this young child feels about and perceives the world.  We as a society need to remember to have compassion with all victims and survivors regardless of what they have endured.

I hope and pray that years from now, when she has regained her trust in humanity, she will remember this final statement she made in court:

“There is only one good thing that came out of this,” she said. “I showed other little kids that they can fight back. You can always fight back to the bad person that’s trying to hurt you.”

Fall Tour Kicks Off!

This past Monday was the official kick off of our Fall 2009 Tour! I had the pleasure of speaking at the College of Notre Dame at Maryland and man, were those girls awesome!

As I was traveling to the campus, I was enjoying the sights of beautiful downtown Baltimore when I suddenly came upon a huge mass of people crossing the road.  Now, I’m not a big sports fan, but I realized immediately from their matching purple garb that they must have all been going to a game.  Oh well, I thought, I’ve got plenty of time to get there and my trusty GPS to guide me.  As I kept driving the directions I was being given like a good girl, I realized that I was getting closer and closer to the action.  I was going to drive right by the stadium where the Jets and Ravens were playing a pre-season game (ended up being an intense one with a final score of 24-23, Ravens).  And that’s when my GPS instructed me to turn right into the preferred fans parking lot (which requires a parking pass).  I knew I was in trouble.  It wasn’t long before I was frantically asking passers-by for directions while my GPS beeped wildly at me for going off course.  I finally pulled off into a gas station parking lot, my GPS reconfigured my route, and before I could shout “Go Ravens” out of my car window, I was back on the road heading towards CNDM.

Once I arrived on campus, we had a few kinks to overcome including a missing lav mic and a relocated presentation that didn’t end until 30 minutes before I was supposed to start my program. But you know what? None of that mattered one bit! I was still ready to roll a good 10 minutes prior to our start time and the technology gods were smiling on us because my powerpoint and our awesome FBP promo video both ran smoothly (well, mostly smoothly).

This group of girls was funny and so on top of it.  One girl offered to let me use her pepper spray to demo and when I started answering questions, they fired off answers so quickly I couldn’t tell who was saying what.  By the end of the night, I’d decided the best word to describe them was spunky!

All-in-all I’d say it was a great experience for my first time out.  Everybody was super nice to me and the campus was gorgeous.  All my flights were on time, my hotel had a free happy hour (I didn’t partake because I had a gig to go to, but still that’s pretty cool!), and I felt great about starting our fall tour off right!

It isn’t too late to book a fall Fight Back Productions program on your campus or for your corporation.  Check out www.fightbackproductions.com for info and let us teach your staff or students how to kick some tail!